NEI Scientist Receives Alcon Award

News Brief
03/14/12

Dr. Anand Swaroop, chief, Laboratory of Neurobiology-Neurodegeneration and Repair (N-NRL), joins a group of select scientists whom the Alcon Research Institute (ARI) regards as “outstanding, internationally recognized experts at the cutting edge of their respective field of vision research.”

Eye care company Alcon, Inc., created ARI and the Alcon Award to foster basic and clinical research for ocular diseases. Awardees are chosen by a scientific selection committee comprising of elite members from the eye research community.

Dr. Swaroop studies molecular mechanisms of retinal development and disease, aided by mouse models developed by his laboratory. He also studies the genetics of degenerative retinal diseases. Since the 1980s, Swaroop has been investigating X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP), an inherited disorder that causes degeneration of the light-activated neurons in the retina called the photoreceptors. In January 2012, Dr. Swaroop and colleagues reached a major milestone when they successfully used gene therapy to rescue photoreceptors in a canine model of XLRP. They are now adapting the technique for use in humans.

He is also defining the complex genetics of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), another degenerative retinal disease and the most common cause of legal blindness in older Americans. In 2010, Swaroop and colleagues identified new AMD susceptibility genes based on a genome wide scan of the largest AMD cohort.

The prestigious Alcon Award distinction comes with a $150,000 unrestricted research award. Dr. Swaroop will use the award funds to explore new strategies for degenerative retinal disease treatment, including stem cell-based approaches.

Dr. Swaroop will present his research at the ARI Awards Symposium in Fort Worth, TX in early 2013.